Defendants Allegedly Exploited Immigrant Straw Buyers to Defraud Multiple Banks
Four Seattle-area residents were arrested today on a 21-count indictment charging them with conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. The mortgage fraud scheme ran from 2006 to 2008 and defrauded more than 10 banks, financial institutions, and mortgage lenders of more than $8.6 million. More than 50 mortgages were involved on properties in a variety of communities around Puget Sound including Medina, Renton, South Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland. Jonathan Mendoza Martinez, 34, of Bellevue, Washington; his sister, Jazmin Villalba Martinez=, 30, of Seattle, Washington; Celia Perez Morales, 35, of Kirkland, Washington; and Jorge Castrejon Pichardo, 41, of Mountlake Terrace, Washington, made their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Seattle today.
According to the indictment, three of the defendants worked at Emerald City Escrow and at Nationwide Home Mortgage and conspired to use straw buyers to defraud banks. The fourth defendant worked at a tax preparation business and provided some of the false documentation submitted with the loan applications. The conspirators submitted false financial, employment, and tax information to apply for residential mortgage loans. They falsely inflated the sale price of the properties. After the lenders funded the loans, the conspirators kept the excess proceeds, and the straw buyers quickly defaulted on the mortgages. The victim banks included Washington Mutual (now JPM Chase), Bank of America, American Sterling Bank, ING Bank, IndyMac Bank, and Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., among others. Documents in the scheme were submitted via mail and wire. In all, the defendants secured, or aided and abetted in securing, through unqualified buyers, at least 50 mortgage loans, representing approximately $22,396,660 in loan proceeds, based on false and fraudulent representations, resulting in a loss to financial institutions and mortgage lenders totaling approximately $8,672,330.
Each count in the indictment is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mike Lang and James Oesterle.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, public affairs officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.gov.